I never thought this day would come, but here it is.
I thought that this country, our country, would never be so foolish as to elect a man like Donald Trump as its president, but it has done so. He didn’t win the votes of a majority or even plurality of Americans, but he won under the system by which we have all agreed to govern ourselves, and he is about to take the oath of office with all the power, authority and responsibility that it entails.
Let me put this honestly, because times like this require it: By placing itself in Trump’s small, grasping and groping hands, my country disappointed me in ways I never thought possible. It is more divided and troubled than I understood as well. As the Rev. Franklin Graham pointed out this week, it wasn’t Trump who divided us. We can’t blame him for that. He is the symptom, the consequence, the beneficiary of that division, but he is far from its cause.
That said, this transition has done nothing to ease the sinking feeling in my gut on Election Night. To the contrary, it has deepened it. Our incoming president has shown no sign whatsoever of growing into his responsibilities. The pettiness, the arrogance of willful ignorance, the venality, the Twitter insults — none of it has changed.
On more substantive grounds, the strong suspicion that this man who sold himself as the defender of the little man against the establishment would instead govern to enrich and protect that establishment has been confirmed by his Cabinet appointees, typified by a Treasury nominee so rich that he simply forgot $100 million in assets on his disclosure forms. As head of the Energy Department, charged with operating our nation’s nuclear-weapons infrastructure, we’re replacing an MIT physicist with a politician who couldn’t remember that he wanted to eliminate the department. And as head of the Department of Education, we have a person who has devoted her entire time in public life to the dismantling of public education.
On the international scene, Trump’s bizarre obsession with Russia and Vladimir Putin continues to mystify, and his mistreatment and disdain for longtime American allies continues to weaken us. He has demonstrably undercut our international influence and trust before even taking office, and I doubt we can adequately imagine what he’ll do once in the Oval Office.
Many Trump supporters are angry that so many of their fellow Americans have refused to embrace our new president and remain so strongly opposed to him. I understand that frustration, but personally, my fears and suspicions about the man have made it impossible to put on a happy face and celebrate his ascension, and I lack the cynicism needed to pretend.
I am not alone. It is telling that in poll after poll, Trump’s standing and support among the citizenry have if anything declined in the 66 days since his election, to the point that he is by far the most unpopular president to take office in the modern era.
The most recent poll, from his friends at Fox News, say that only 37 percent approve of how he has handled his transition, while 54 percent disapprove. And the transition is, or ought to be, the easy part. From here it gets difficult.
(Eight years ago, Barack Obama’s approval stood at almost 80 percent. By Fox’s estimate, he leaves office with an approval/disapproval rating of 57/39.)
In that Fox poll, just one-third of voters described the mood of the country as “we’re all in this together.” Almost two-thirds say it’s now every man, woman and child for themselves. Clearly, the sense of hope and optimism that generally carries a new president into office does not exist, and as a man who feeds off conflict and division, Trump has no chance or even interest in changing that.
God bless America.